French court: Secret Sarkozy recordings can be heard in corruption probe

A French court ruled Thursday that secret telephone recordings of former French President Nicolas Sarkozy and his lawyer Thierry Herzog can be heard as evidence in a corruption investigation.

In the recordings from 2014, the two are accused of discussing the idea of giving then high-ranking magistrate Gilbert Azibert a prestigious post in exchange for confidential information on a legal case concerning Sarkozy.

The former President was placed under formal investigation last year in connection with suspected corruption and influence peddling.

The Paris Court of Appeals ruling that the wiretapping was legal means that the investigation into Sarkozy, on hold since the fall, will continue, according to CNN French affiliate BFMTV. He denies wrongdoing.

Herzog and Azibert also were placed under formal investigation last year.

Thursday’s ruling will come as a blow for Sarkozy, head of the center-right UMP party, who is believed to have his eyes on the 2017 presidential race in France.

Sarkozy’s UMP party became embroiled in the corruption case in 2007, when a UMP official received an envelope stuffed full of money from L’Oreal heiress Liliane Bettencourt, intended for the presidential campaign of Sarkozy.

The politician, who led the country from 2007 to 2012, lost in the 2012 presidential election to Socialist rival Francois Hollande.

The offense of “active corruption” carries a penalty of up to 10 years in prison and a fine, under the French penal code. Influence peddling is punishable by up to five years in prison and a 500,000-euro ($569,000) fine.

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